Courtesy of Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IL
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Even though Illinois lawmakers approved a long overdue state budget over the summer, the effects of not having one for so long are still being felt across the state.
Illinois has racked up $15 billion of unpaid bills and owes $250 billion in pensions to state workers when they retire. Personal and corporate tax rates also have gone up.
AARP has been hosting a series of meetings across the state, called An Illinois Issues Forum – State Budget: The Challenges Ahead.
Ryan Gruenenfelder, director of advocacy and outreach for the group, says millions of Illinoisans of all ages have lost critical services because agencies weren’t paid by the state for months upon months.
“That means that these social services agencies, many of them – maybe even most of them – nonprofits, have exhausted their lines of credit as far as they possibly can and they have had to shut their doors,” he points out.
AARP’s next forum is scheduled for Nov. 16 at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.
The program will be audio and video recorded and parts of it will be rebroadcast by NPR Illinois.
Gruenenfelder says part of the focus of the forums is to let residents know what they can do about the financial crisis.
He says because there’s a gubernatorial election coming up, candidates will be listening to what their constituents have to say.
“Community members are coming and they’re learning what is happening with this fiscal crisis and how it is negatively impacting them, their cities, their communities and the state of Illinois,” he states.
The $36 billion spending plan lawmakers approved in July is fueled by a permanent 32 percent increase in the income tax rate, raising $5 billion more annually, and it reduces spending by more than $2 billion.
Gov. Bruce Rauner opposed it, arguing it does nothing to grow jobs, reduce spending, bring property tax relief or pay down the state’s debt.